DENMARK, SC – A team of educators from South Carolina recently spent several weeks on the Caribbean Island of Barbados studying ways to impact teaching, learning and educator preparation. The Voorhees University Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation (EPI Center) received funding from the United States Department of Education to participate in the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program. This short-term seminar project of four to six weeks in length was designed to help integrate international studies into the curriculum at an institution of higher education or a school system.
The Barbadian/African American Connections project involves a 17-member Curriculum Development team, a consortium of K-12 educators, preservice teachers, and higher education faculty. Dr. Gwenda R. Greene, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Dr. Tondaleya G. Jackson, Professor, and Director of the Voorhees EPI Center are organizers for Voorhees University.
According to Dr. Jackson, the project focuses on language and area studies to build knowledge, develop international relationships, and collect materials for curriculum construction for K-12 classrooms and university courses. “The purpose of the Barbados experience, aptly titled the ‘Bajan Project,’ was to gain firsthand knowledge, artifacts, documents, experience, and other resources to be used in the development, implementation, and systemic dissemination of curricula for use in K-12 and university classrooms,” said Dr. Jackson.
Focusing specifically on area studies (history, politics, geography, economics, language, religion, cultural traditions of Barbados, and connections to African American traditions and culture), this project will highlight academic content typically missing from but critical to university and K-12 school curricula in South Carolina and in the United States.
Co-organizers of the project, Dr. George Johnson of South Carolina State University and Dr. Gloria Boutte of the University of South Carolina, represent Voorhees University’s collaborations with its neighboring historically black colleges and universities [HBCUs] and one predominantly white institution. Collectively they bring expertise in African Diaspora Literacy, understanding African people wherever they are in the Diaspora, and teacher education. The Host Country Lead Convener, Dr. S. Joel Warrican at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill, has a background in raciolinguistics and Caribbean literacies. Dr. Warrican and Host Country Co-Convener, Mariella Jones provide in-country leadership and expertise to ensure successful project implementation.
Additionally, the Voorhees University cohort includes three completers from the inaugural 2023 graduation class of the Voorhees University Master of Education in Teaching and Learning. In addition to earning their degree, educators Aliska Brown, Shelly Brunson, and Equanda Wearing have completed the EPI Center’s V-NET (Voorhees Network for Enhanced Teacher) Program, where they engaged in an 11-month teaching residency. Certified teacher and veteran educator Saudah Collins is a 2023 completer of the EPI Center’s IMPACT (Improvement Science Propels Achievement and Critical Teaching) pathway, where she has learned to implement the tenets of Improvement Science in her teaching practices. Collins is a Bajan Project Mentor Teacher for the three graduates, newly minted classroom teachers.
Rounding out the Voorhees University team are graduate faculty Dr. Regina Ciphrah, Dr. Dwyanna Smith, and EPI team members Sharon Dublin and Margo Jackson. Cohort members also include other educators from various SC K-12 and higher education environments; Dr. Jarvais Jackson, Will Boyles, Janice Baines, Eli Davis, and Julie Dawson.
All Fulbright Hays Bajan Project participants will use acquired knowledge, implemented through yearlong curriculum projects to inform, and impact teaching, learning, and educator preparation.
Voorhees University is the only HBCU in South Carolina doing this concentration of work in teacher preparation. The EPI Center, a national non-profit, founded specifically to address teacher shortages and diversify the teacher workforce, provides four innovative pathways and professional learning opportunities for currently certified teachers and those seeking certification.
Pathway One of RISE (Rigorous Instruction Supports Equity) offers no-cost micro-credentials for certified educators interested in earning renewal credits. Pathway Two of RISE (Rigorous Instruction Supports Equity) is for individuals with a bachelor’s degree who are interested in making a career change to education. Pathway Three of V-NET is for individuals with a bachelor’s degree who would like to become a certified educator and earn a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning at the same time. Pathway Four of IMPACT is for certified English Language Arts educators interested in improving their instructional practices and receiving a monthly stipend while doing so.